At the age of 14, Melvin Trumbull lied about his age to join the Union Navy during the Civil War. Serving as a powder boy aboard Admiral Farragut’s ship, the “Hartford,” in the Battle of Mobile Bay, he survived the floating inferno.
When the Civil War ended in 1866, Mel returned to the Adirondacks and settled in Keene Valley. Mel built many camps, but the one he built in 1887 (partially rebuilt in 1902 & 1924) became known as “Mel Trumbull’s Camp.” The lean-to and summer dining hall of the original camp is owned and has been maintained as part of the Farnam Lefferts Camp.
Mel (1849-1927) guided for many well-known summer residents of Keene Valley, such as Charles Dudley Warner, Reverends Joseph Twichell and Horace Bushnell, and Yale President Noah Porter. He was also the guide for landscape painter, Arthur H. Wyant on his first ascent of Macomb in 1872 when he named the Wolf Jaws.
Mel was known as an excellent story teller. His camp fire stories ranged from Civil War naval battles, hunting, mountain climbing, to his most popular “exaggerated” dangerous animal stories.
He was also an active member of the Keene Valley community. He was involved with the Neighborhood House, the Keene Valley Library, and the Keene Valley Congregational Church.
He was a regular at the Keene Valley Congregational Church, usually seated in the front pew. Rev. Paul Wolfe described him as a “faithful deacon and office bearer of this church.”
In the early 1930’s the Keene Valley Congregational Church underwent renovations. The clock and bell were installed in the steeple and the clock was named for Melvin Trumbull. The plaque honoring Mel is still hanging over the church entrance way.
(Contributed by Teri Brown)